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Is Paying for Fertilizer the Answer To Advancing African Agribusiness? Lessons From China

A worker loads 100kg bags of potassium chloride fertilizer onto a truck at Chearhan Salt Lake Industrial Park 60km from the city of Golmud in China's northwest Qinghai province. The industrial park produces two million tonnes of fertilizer per year with plans to increase another million tonnes to satisfy China's huge agricultural needs. AFP PHOTO/Peter PARKS

Agriculture is an important piece of Africa’s development puzzle. Resource-wise, the continent is blessed with 60% of the world’s arable land, yet only 17% of the world population. Dependency-wise, Africa is largely sustained by agriculture, with two-thirds of the population being employed within the sector. Nonetheless reality-wise, Africa is facing the challenge of food security and malnutrition. Africa imports US $35 billion worth of food annually, including staples such as wheat and rice. Yet, 332 million people, or 3 out of every 10 Africans, are classified as severely food insecure.

One major challenge put simply is – low productivity. Africa has the lowest crop productivity in the globe.  Even with two-thirds of the population employed, the African agri-sector collectively generates less than one-sixth of the continent’s GDP. There’s lots of labor, yet insufficient usage of agricultural inputs such as machinery or fertilizers.

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